A couple of weeks ago, I volunteered to help clean up a historic cemetery with the young professionals branch of a preservation society I joined back when I was still employed and considered myself somewhat professional (the "young" part was a little more dubious, but I slipped in under the wire). This city does not have a rich tradition of appreciation for historic buildings and landmarks, so I admire people who actively resist the lure of all new everything, all the time. Plus I'm trying my best to feel rooted here, and a couple of my friends are involved, and when you're trying to meet new people and impact your community in a positive way, signing up for stuff is a good way to kill two birds with one stone.
(If there is one thing I hope comes through these posts, it is that I am trying.)
We started relatively early on one of the first Saturday mornings with a chill in the air. It was my first activity since signing up for the membership online, and I knew a total of three people in the organization. I resolved in the car on the way across town to get over myself; I would set aside my introversion at least long enough to meet two new people. That seemed like a measurable, achievable goal. So I was pumped at how easy it was turning out to be as I walked over to the two people welcoming volunteers and confidently extended my hand, gave them my name, and told them it was my first time out with the organization. The woman--between ten and 15 years older than me--looked off in annoyance, and the guy--about ten years younger than me--shrugged apologetically and said, "I think your group is waiting over there. We're here with the community college."
Oh. Well. In that case, I'll just...yeah. Nice to meet you anyway!
(In my defense, I was between coffee grinders at the time, so I started the morning without my usual dose of caffeine.)
The group I needed to join was already huddled around the person running the project for the cemetery, so I sidled up to them quietly and listened to our instructions. I thought we would be doing typical outdoor clean up: pulling weeds, raking, etc. As it turned out, the community college kids got that chore. We got a far more interesting assignment.
Cemetery records indicate approximately 5000 people (or maybe it was 500--like I said, I hadn't had enough coffee that morning) buried there, but you can take one look and tell the number of headstones doesn't add up to nearly that many. Sure enough, there are only 350 headstones listed in records riddled with errors and inconsistencies. Our job was to take various quadrants of the cemetery and meticulously check the printed records against the ground beneath our feet. I split off with a cluster of fellow history enthusiasts and headed for the back corner.
For the next two hours, we pored over the way families memorialized their dead. This was a burial ground for the everyman; other than a few large, graceful markers, most were pretty humble. Nice enough, like the family wanted to be sure "Our Beloved" was well represented among the rest of the cemetery's occupants, but nothing especially striking. I found one crypt that didn't show up in any of the records where someone had used a stick or something to note the information in the concrete by hand. I imagined a family arguing over who was going to pay for the headstone until finally someone had enough and said, "Forget it, then! I'll take care of this."
The cemetery representative made the rounds between the groups, checking our progress and answering questions. We hit a lull in that line of conversation, so I decided to ask about something not officially related to our task.
"What's the deal with the painted tree stumps? I mean, you can tell someone worked really hard on all of them. I've never seen that before."
We all paused for a moment to take in the clusters of colors and patterns scattered in the spaces between headstones across the whole cemetery. He smiled as he talked about a local artist who coordinated the project, and I thought he was going to tell me that it was an art installation to draw attention to the cemetery and raise money for its preservation.
But no, that wasn't it. Or at least, not all of it.
The real reason, he explained, was to cause the stumps to decay faster. The cemetery became overgrown with trees during an especially dilapidated period, only to have those trees decimated by one of the tropical storms that huffed and puffed its way through the area. The people running the cemetery couldn't afford to have all the stumps removed (the former Connecticut homeowner in me nodded at this--getting rid of stumps is a freakishly expensive undertaking), so they painted them instead. The paint makes them deteriorate faster, so removing them becomes a much simpler (and cheaper) proposition. In the meantime, the painted stumps look a lot more interesting and the artistic project increases community exposure to the cemetery. Win-win-win across the board. I'm a big fan of creative solutions, and this particular one seems brilliant in the way it meets a variety of needs. And a little more color in the world is always a good thing.
The Jesus girl in me also couldn't help noticing the parallels between painted, decaying stumps in a cemetery and one of the most famous similes in the Bible:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth. (Matthew 23:27)
There's a distinct difference, though: the paint on the outside of these remnants is there for the explicit purpose of causing more efficient decay. The scribes and Pharisees were trying to pretend the decay at their core didn't exist; they were all about the outside appearance as misdirection from what was really happening in their hearts.
With the tree stumps, no one is trying to dress anything up or deny a problem exists. I'm sure the cemetery would love to hire a landscaping company to come get rid of the stumps and call it a day. But since they can't afford to do that, their solution ends up drawing attention to the problem as it is resolved in an unexpected way. I find that refreshing.
I've noticed myself cringing lately when people ask me what or how I'm doing. I say essentially the same thing as I did when I left my job last month--I'm okay, taking some time to figure out what I want to do next, resting a little in between things. It's all mostly true, so it isn't hard to stay consistent. But as the time "between things" drags on, the conversation itself gets more uncomfortable. As a society, we put so much emphasis on people having it all together--career, house, family, car, hobbies, vacations, etc.--and I've always been someone who had my act together. Even as I child, I was known as a resourceful, responsible person who managed to take care of business in spite of the occasional mess.
In many ways, I am still that resourceful, responsible person. I always will be. But there isn't much about my life that can be tied up with a nice neat bow right now.
And there have been way too many times when all that resourcefulness and responsibility masked a world of dysfunction and decay. I performed my hostess duties flawlessly the night friends showed up with their kids to have dinner and play moments after I finished cleaning up the remnants of a computer being thrown across the room. I cooed and smiled with the baby and pulled activity books out of the diaper bag to entertain my son when we sat down at a restaurant for Mother's Day lunch; you'd never know I'd been the object of a stream of obscenities in the car ride over. Stay calm, wait it out, don't flinch--and more important than anything else, act like everything is fine and eventually it will be.
Except it wasn't. And now here I am.
The whitewashed tomb approach proved just as destructive for me as it was for the Pharisees and scribes.
But I'm lucky enough to know there is a better way.
Therapy and a divorce and a move across the country cleared away a lot of debris in my life, but I haven't known what to do about the tree stumps with their deep, persistent roots. I can't just have someone come in and get rid of them for me, as satisfying and convenient as that might be: I have more than a decade left to share immediate responsibility for three children, not to mention a lifetime ahead of shared involvement in their lives. I might clear out some of the tree stumps eventually, but it can't happen overnight.
So I think it's time to get out the paints. Or in my case, the pen, paper, and camera. Focusing creative attention on my own struggles might light the way for someone else. And if nothing else, it dots the landscape with color and design. Win-win-win.
It's time to write about my marriage and relationship of more than 20 years with my ex-husband. I know I have mentioned bits and pieces here, but it feels like I need to take a more cohesive approach. I have to think about how to do that in a way that respects my ex-husband's dignity as a human being, knowing that he and people who love him--including our children--might read what I write someday. And I have to brace myself for fully acknowledging my own errors and failings, which are manifold. The part from Jon Kabat-Zinn's meditation on patience that I mentioned in my last post, "what will come next will be determined in large measure by how we are now," will need to be on a constant loop in my head. Honest? Yes. Loving? Yes. Bitter? No. Vindictive? Absolutely not.
But I think the only way forward is through; I can't avoid it if I really want to make lasting progress. The Pivot Project is entering a new phase, and telling this story will be one of the hardest things I've ever done. If you are inclined to pray, please ask God to help me be brave, fair, and as full of His grace as possible.
My uncle worked at least three jobs at a time for most of his adult life.
First and foremost, he was a policeman: a good one, the kind little boys like my son want to grow up to be like. At various stages in his career, he served on the SWAT team, as a detective, then finally (and fatally) as a motorcycle cop. He died doing what he loved, but his loss left a gaping hole in the fabric of the world for everyone who loved him.
When he wasn't being a cop, though, he worked security at banks and other businesses, and for many years he had a thriving lawn mowing business. People adored him; he was a hometown boy who played football and baseball in high school and grew up to be affable, handsome, and honest. In addition to standing for law and order, my uncle, aunt, and cousin attended services at the Baptist church dressed up in their Sunday best every week. People felt safer with him coming and going at their homes, and his smile and laughter were legendary. He had business coming out his ears.
One of the lawns he kept for decades belonged to my grandparents' next door neighbors. No doubt I overheard this story when I wasn't supposed to be listening, so I can't claim 100% accuracy with the details. But what I understood to have happened was this:
The neighbor went out to try to pay my uncle while he was still mowing, so the neighbor walked up unnoticed in the wake of his mower. Before he came outside, the neighbor saw my uncle's lips moving like he was having a conversation with someone, but he just assumed my uncle was singing a song or something to distract him from the heat and hard work. As the neighbor came up closer behind my uncle, though, he realized what was coming out of my uncle's mouth was a stream of foul and festering curse words, words spewing a rage no one had any idea existed. The neighbor backed off so that my uncle wouldn't realize he'd overheard--to spare my uncle the embarrassment of being caught in such a raw moment--but he wanted my grandparents to know about it because it seemed so unlike their charming, smiling son.
My aunt was slowly dying at the time. The doctor had assured her for months that the lump she felt couldn't possibly be cancer: at 25, she was too young for that. By the afternoon my uncle was cursing up a storm behind his lawnmower, she'd been through surgery after surgery and round after round of radiation and chemo. Nothing worked, and she eventually died at age 33, leaving behind my uncle and their ten-year-old daughter.
He had so many reasons to scream curse words under the cover of his mower.
Anger isn't something I'm used to expressing, but it can't help but bubble up from time to time. There are some hot tempers in my bloodline, and in certain moments, I know the apple didn't fall far from the tree. Ask my children what happens when they take things just one step too far, and you'll hear plenty of stories. One time my oldest daughter and I were taking silly photos during a soccer tournament, and she told me to "make a mad face." I said I didn't have one, and without missing a beat, she said, "Oh yes, you do."
Of course I do. Anger is a form of passion, and it would be ridiculous to think that someone who approaches the world with as much curiosity and passion as I do would not feel anger. It's funny: I have no problem allowing myself to experience intense sadness and pain--that seems like the only way to heal sometimes--and I revel in every moment of joy that comes my way. Yet I twist myself into knots to avoid anger.
For years, I wouldn't--couldn't--let myself be really and truly angry. My ability to regulate that emotion became a matter of survival for me, and I'm grateful I'm good at controlling my anger rather than letting it control me. But anger has a tendency to come out sideways if you don't address it head on, and I think part of what I'm dealing with right now is the result of stuffing it out of sight to be unpacked later.
Except maybe now is later, as timing and circumstances conspire to force me to navigate through my anger instead of continuing to avoid it. If I don't, I might not ever get to where I need to be.
I was looking for a mindfulness exercise to give my writing group last week, and I came across this from a meditation on patience in Jon Kabat-Zinn's Wherever You Go, There You Are:
"Scratch the surface of impatience and what you will find lying beneath it, subtly or not so subtly, is anger. It's the strong energy of not wanting things to be the way they are and blaming someone (often yourself) or something for it" (48, emphasis added).
Those words have been running around playing flashlight tag in the darker parts of my heart and mind ever since I read them.
But as my dad once told me, anger is really fear with a dose of adrenaline. When I process the things that make me angry, I need to go the next step and trace them to the fear at their origin:
So I was grateful for how Kabat-Zinn's meditation on patience continues:
[Right understanding] doesn't just spring up spontaneously. It needs to be practiced, cultivated. It's not that feelings of anger don't arise. it's that the anger can be used, worked with, harnessed so that its energies can nourish patience, compassion, harmony, and wisdom in ourselves and perhaps others as well. . . .
We know that things unfold according to their own nature. We can remember to let our lives unfold in the same way. We don't have to let our anxieties and our desire for certain results dominate the quality of the moment, even when things are painful. When we have to push, we push. When we have to pull, we pull. But we know when not to push too, and when not to pull.
Through it all, we attempt to bring balance to the present moment, understanding that in patience lies wisdom, knowing that what will come next will be determined in large measure by how we are now (50, emphasis mine).
It's okay for me to be angry, and I have plenty to be angry about. I have to give myself permission to experience anger, to really own it and express it at appropriate times and in healthy ways. To know that it's okay to want things to be different than the way they are, yet fully accept and embrace the reality of what is. One of my favorite songs claims "there's beauty in the breakdown," and I think that's right.
It's possible to use that anger to find balance and propel forward motion, and I think I'm capable of that, too. I just have to practice and get better at it.
My uncle's anger didn't infect the rest of his life. He seems to have let most of it out behind his lawnmower where he could dispose of it along with the bags of grass clippings.
Maybe what I need to do is start a lawn mowing business.
When I was in New York a couple of weeks ago, my friends and I were sitting in their living room having one of the rambling, rabbit trail conversations I love to have with them, and somehow we landed on Gary Chapman's book, The 5 Love Languages. I looked up a quiz and texted them the link, and within seconds we were all staring at our phones with furrowed brows and laser focus. We took issue with a few questions, but for the most part, our curiosity won out over our skepticism.
When we were done, I made them share their results first. "Words of affirmation" and "quality time" seemed spot on, and we all nodded our heads at the descriptions. Yep, that's you alright; yeah, I can definitely see that.
Then it was my turn.
Cue awkward silence and raised eyebrows, followed by bursts of laughter all around.
I'm not sure why it felt embarrassing, but it did. I know I blushed five different shades of red, and I'm blushing now just writing about it. When we all headed off to bed, my friend gently shook my foot to say goodnight "in your love language," and I know this will be a standing joke between us probably forever.
I don't dispute the results, though.
Truth be told, though I perform acts of service all the time, it makes me uncomfortable when someone does something for me. So that's definitely not my love language.
I do appreciate kind words and quality time with the people I love. And I do enjoy giving and receiving thoughtful gifts, the kind that have nothing to do with a dollar amount but everything to do with someone knowing what you like and thinking of you when they see it. Those ways of relating to others resonate with me, but I can see they are not primary.
Physical touch, on the other hand . . .
Here are a handful of examples:
Physical touch is my love language. No doubt.
(I'm not even blushing about it anymore.)
Knowing that puts a lot of other things in perspective, too.
I always thought I was a visual learner, and it's true I can absorb information that way. But I took a learning style assessment on a lark when I was trying to develop some new teaching methods, and I discovered I'm actually a kinesthetic or tactile learner. Reading the description (this is one of many you can find in a quick search) felt like a lightbulb turning on in my brain: of course I loved dance and gymnastics! Of course I took pages and pages of notes to keep my hands busy during lectures! Of course I learned to take photos by twisting dials and pushing buttons on my camera instead of reading the manual from cover to cover! My brain processes information taken in through my sense of touch more efficiently and productively than any other method. How could I have missed that?!
And then there's my body's physical manifestation of stress: my heart going 190 beats per minute when I roll over in bed, the bony protrusions in my mouth (called tori) caused by clenching my jaw, the angry-looking eczema that erupts all over my legs, and the iritis that blew up my right eye on two separate occasions--when Jonathan was about to die and the day my divorce became final.
After my heart's most recent misbehavior, I got serious about regular exercise. I set aside my disdain for workouts on the treadmill and started using the one languishing in my laundry room. I got up crazy early and watched episodes of The West Wing on my phone; I had to turn on captions and read through sleepy eyes because I couldn't catch all the dialogue over the hum of the treadmill's motor. I watched every episode from every season, and then I watched Band of Brothers once I finished. When I was done with that series, I watched a few movies over several sessions and now I'm making my way through Friday Night Lights.
A quiet revolution began in those early mornings. It was the discipline of climbing out of bed when all I wanted to do was stay under the covers one more hour; the choice to keep going until I hit the next mile marker instead of stopping as soon as I reached the required time; the satisfaction of turning everything off at the end and walking to the kitchen to make coffee; and the little wobble I felt in my legs as I went down the stairs of the parking garage at work later. I noticed I starting walking with my head held higher, breathing deeper and with a greater sense of calm, and feeling more confident engaging with people. Exercise really is a miracle drug.
As beneficial as running/walking are, though, this past week I wanted to push a little harder. I spent a lot of time in the yoga studio, and the stretching and breathing helped me connect with a lot of physical "stuff" I've been carrying around a long time. There's all the stuff I mentioned above. And then there are my fertility issues.
From March 2002 through September 2003, I had three miscarriages and thought I would never have another baby. I hated my body for failing me yet also felt tremendous gratitude towards it for giving me my oldest daughter, a gift I more fully appreciated once I knew how many different ways something could go wrong. I don't know how I would have survived that time emotionally without her happy little face reminding me of life's inherent goodness every day. My son was born in the summer of 2004, and my body and I were friends again.
Then I tried to get pregnant for years with no success. I did infertility testing as far as I could before getting into science fiction territory, and it uncovered a few issues but nothing major. I hated my body again until I got to hold the surprise of all surprises in my arms in the winter of 2011.
Following her birth, I had two more miscarriages--in May and August of 2012--and then my marriage started falling apart. I went from hating my body (again) to having bigger issues to tackle, and the only time I paid any attention to my physical self was when one of those chronic conditions flared up and made demands. I would pause long enough to get things under control and say, "Wow, look how stressed out I am!" and then go right back to what I was doing.
That won't work anymore. My physical self--which I'm realizing more and more is the most powerful way I process the most important parts of my world: how I love and how I learn--deserves to be a priority. In whatever kind of life I'm building from this point on, it will be.
I knew my daughter's teacher was a brilliant woman when she explained that she has her class run a "marathon" throughout the year. Every morning as soon as the opening announcements are over, the class goes outside and runs laps around an adjacent field for ten minutes. She's measured off a circuit for them that's 1/10th of a mile, and she keeps track of everyone's laps. There's a big bar graph on the wall outside the classroom showing how many laps each child has completed toward the ultimate goal of 262--the 26.2 miles of a marathon.
Parents who want to stick around after drop off can run with their kids, but I usually have to race back to the car to get my son to his school on time. Today, though, his dad was available to drive him, so I stayed behind to run.
My youngest has this habit of saying "Mommy? . . ." and letting it trail off like she forgot what she was going to say. When I say, "Yes, baby?" She says, "I love you." It happens at random moments, apropos of nothing, probably 20 times a day: when we're walking to the car from the grocery store, or when she comes in the kitchen while I'm ironing, or when I'm sitting at my computer like I am now. I always smile and say, "I love you, too, little one," before she picks back up whatever she was doing.
Today as we ran (6 laps!), she must have told me she loved me ten times. She is so earnest, and the way she lets love spill out of her and wash over me makes me want to drop to my knees right there in the parking lot or the kitchen or on the field next to her school. Life is hard for the lovers of this world--oh, man, do I ever know that--but it is beautiful and sweet, too.
Just like this little face.
I spent the entire first half of my first day as a teacher feeling torn between crawling under the table to hide or rushing to the bathroom to throw up. In those last few minutes before the first few students wandered into my classroom, I asked myself, "What the f*&k were you thinking when you took this job?!" with more intensity than any other time in my life. To put it into perspective, I felt no fear about getting married at 21 years old, had no hesitation about bringing children into the world at 23 and 27 (my third child wasn't born at this point), and felt nothing but excitement at moving across the country twice to cities I'd never seen before . . . but a classroom filling up with teenage girls had me quaking in my boots.
I had a plan, though, so with my tongue thick in my mouth, I introduced myself and asked them to take out a sheet of paper and a pen. One of my favorite books is Straight Man by Richard Russo, and I love one of the exercises the main character uses with his writing class, so I adapted it for use with my students.
"Everyone look at the person on your right. Do you know her pretty well?" General nods of assent all around.
"Then here's what I want you to do. Complete the sentence: 'I know ____________; she's the kind of person who ___________' about the person on your right."
They blinked and glanced around at each other; a few giggled. One girl raised her hand and asked, "Um, are you going to, like, read these out loud to the class?"
"No, this is just for me to get to know you all a little bit. And I should have said before, I only want POSITIVE comments, please. Don't tell me she stole your boyfriend or what have you, okay? While you're doing that, I'm going to walk around with my camera and take your photo so that I can learn your names. My goal is to know all of your names by our next class."
They seemed a little dubious, but they went along with it. It was the first day, after all--I had a level of cooperation then I might not have had if I'd tried this even a day or two later. I realize now how many different ways this could have backfired or gone horribly wrong, but thankfully, it worked.
And it got me through the first day.
I went home that night and cross referenced the "I know ______" sentences with the photos of smiling young girls holding name cards in front of them, and I learned that Stella* (blonde, blue eyes, looked about ten years older than everyone else) was the kind of girl who spoke Polish on the train so that no one around her could understand what she was saying. I learned that Charlie* (blondish-brown hair, athletic, perfect smile) could whistle while hopping up and down on one leg (or something equally ridiculous). They described each other with tenderness and care, even in cases where I found out later the girl was widely disliked or avoided socially. As I memorized their names and little tidbits about them as seen through the eyes of a classmate who happened to sit next to them that morning, storylines started to emerge for each girl and the relationship between us began.
I was able to go back into the classroom the next day and call every single student in my classes by name, even though they sat in different seats and wore their hair in different styles to try to throw me off. They still scared me, but I already loved them enough to move beyond the fear and try to teach them. Some of those girls and other students who followed are still part of my life.
*not their real names
I learned a lot in that one anecdote from my teaching experience. Knowing people by name goes a LONG way towards establishing a real connection and making people feel appreciated. Investing time and energy to understand something about someone's story pays enormous dividends when you ask them to follow you somewhere. That junior class--and I taught every single one of them--had powerful athletes, leaders, scholars, and socialites, and if they had turned on me, I would have been toast.
Instead, we were able to throw out a patronizing, infantile textbook in favor of a curriculum I developed on the fly, visit the UN, host interesting speakers, conduct Skype interviews with cool people all over the world who were tackling issues like hunger and HIV/AIDS, and write one-act plays about social justice issues that the freshman theater class used as part of their last trimester's work.
I also learned that my camera can save me when I feel frozen and don't know what to do. The objectivity and distance provided by the lens gives me a critical moment to pause and collect my thoughts before I have to dive into engagement and action. It helps me capture images that speak to me over and over as I review them, edit them, and show them to others. I never feel more comfortable than when I have the heft of my dSLR in my left hand. It's funny--that's the same hand and shoulder I used to carry my babies, and I often cradle my camera in my elbow the same way I did my infant daughters and son.
This past week, I had a dream that my camera somehow ended up falling into deep water off a dock of some kind. I can't say for certain whether I knocked it off the railing, someone else knocked it off, or how exactly it came to fall, but I watched it go and knew I would never see it again. Other people around me wanted me to go in the water to get it, but I said it was too deep, the camera itself would be fried, let it go. I remember sighing as I realized I had let my insurance lapse (hello, real life intrusion into dream life!) and then accepting that it was gone. Much as I loved it, it was just a thing. Let it go. Move on.
At first I interpreted that to mean that my photography business, which is probably the most commercially viable part of my life at the moment, isn't going to offer enough substance as I move forward in this career transition. I know that. It is really, really hard to make a living as a photographer, even if you love it as much as I do. However, since making photographs is such an essential piece of how I engage the world, whatever I do next will involve photography somehow. That seems pretty certain.
But then I had coffee with a wise friend who reminded me that large bodies of water in dreams--like what my camera fell into--signify spirituality, and since the camera is my go-to lens for integrating my external and internal worlds, having it fall into something representing spirituality and the unconscious at this time of self-examination and transition is significant.
She also helped me admit that often the camera is a buffer between me and the world: it's how I control what I let in and what I keep out, and sometimes I use it to gain access to people and places I wouldn't be able to reach otherwise (like into a bride's room while she's getting dressed or behind the ropes at the Rodeo parade). For me to lose that buffer opens up a whole new way of relating to the people around me, one that's less about careful framing and composition and more about openness and authenticity.
That got my attention.
I spent a lot of the last week listening: listening to men and women who know and love me tell me things about myself I might have skipped over or missed, reaffirm things I know to be true, and offer suggestions and guidance about what to do next. It was like an extended version of "I know Emily, she's the kind of person who ______," and it proved similarly revealing. I'm starting to see a couple of ways forward, some with a long term focus and others with more immediate applications. As important as it is to know and think for ourselves, allowing safe, trusted people to speak truth into your life about who you are is important, too. None of us sees ourselves clearly enough to make it through these decisive moments alone.
I enjoyed my kids and said yes as often as possible when usually I would have had to say no. I took my son to lunch and to play miniature golf on his day off for parent/teacher conferences, and we both watched in amazement as I made a hole in one on the first hole. I then proceeded to trounce him in both rounds we played, and even though he melted down to the point I had to threaten to quit playing if he didn't show better sportsmanship, he had newfound respect for me in his eyes on the walk back to the car. To get buy-in from a kid, you have to know their currency; evidently his has something to do with his mother being able to kick his ass at something. I've spent years trying to quash my competitive nature; it might be time to let it back out.
In the first week of the Pivot Project, I tried to push myself to stop and take photos of whatever happened to catch my eye. I went places like the public library that I haven't been in years; returned phone calls and responded to emails; worked through conflict in positive ways; exercised and spent as much time as possible outdoors; fed myself good food and slept more than I have in months. Things feel settled and peaceful for the first time in God knows how long, and while I can feel the edge of anxiety creeping back in a little bit, this is a much healthier place to encounter it.
I think what I hope more than anything is to end up in a place where I can feel that same creative edge I felt on that first day of teaching (which seems a lot like fear but with a more productive nature) and the same love for the people in front of me that I felt as I called each girl by name on the second. That's what I'm reaching for.
And so the Pivot Project continues.
Mother, photographer, writer. Expert in making things up as she goes and figuring things out along the way.